Formula One is going through tough times but the latest news indicate that the sport might be able to hobble on for some time until it finds some relief soon. According to some automotive racing lawyers – yeah, they apparently exist – the sport will be able to continue with less than 16 cars on the grid without breaching its contract. Technically, that is.
According to an article published in Autoweek recently, F1’s organizers do not have an “absolute obligation” to field a minimum number of cars. It was previously widely believed that F1 would not be able to continue unless there are at least 16 cars on the grid come raceday.
The revelation must have come off as a breath of relieve for a sport that has seen the collapse of the Marussia and Caterham racing teams in the last year. Marussia has formally ceased trading whilst Caterham only managed to make it to last month’s season-ender in Abu Dhabi after raising $3.7 million through crowd-funding. Several other teams are thought to be on the brink of demise, especially Sauber, Lotus, and our very own Force India.
If both the aforementioned teams fail to make it to the start of next season it would leave Formula One with 18 cars as there were at the penultimate race in Brazil and the one before it in Texas. It was widely believed that if more teams go under the remaining ones would have to field a third car to prevent F1 from breaching contracts with race organisers and its governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). Point to note; the FIA owns the commercial rights to the series.
Jonathan Lux, a lawyer at London’s Stone Chambers, told Autoweek, “neither contract imposes an absolute obligation on F1 to ensure a threshold of 16 cars.. The Rights contract simply refers to an ‘attempt to procure’ – not even requiring that there be a reasonable attempt. At least arguably an attempt falling short of a reasonable attempt would suffice.”